"Despite Papua New Guinea being Australia’s nearest neighbour, in terms of health care, the two countries could not be further apart," according to Sydney doctor, Bruce Slonim.
"1 in 22 mothers die in childbirth in Papua New Guinea," he said recently in a meeting for Latter-day Saints and their guests in Sydney.
"This is a far cry from the mortality rate of Australia’s first world health system, where eight in 100,000 mothers die in childbirth. The infant mortality rate in Papua New Guinea is extremely high as well."
Dr Slonim and his wife Gayle recently returned to Australia after a stint as volunteer medical workers for Australian Doctors International in Papua New Guinea. They were based in New Ireland Province, a remote island approximately 800 nautical kilometres from Port Moresby.
The Slonims devoted their time, resources and expertise to teach as volunteers in Papua New Guinea for three months. They put into place policies and procedures that they believe will continue to be used by the local health workers they trained.
While in Papua New Guinea they conducted health patrols to rural and isolated communities, often by boat. They travelled with a team of provincial and district health staff to conduct optical, dental and general health exams, provide community health education, as well as administer treatment for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis and leprosy.
The couple brought medical equipment and supplies, donated by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to rural medical centres.
Sydney Latter-day Saints have also supported the Slonims in their humanitarian efforts. Local Church members donated $31,000 so medical equipment and supplies for birthing kits could be purchased.
Blankets and medical supplies were also donated by women of the Sydney Harbour Stake Relief Society (women’s organization of the Church). Scores of Sydney Mormon women then ensured that these materials were packed and shipped to Papua New Guinea.
Volunteers assembled 340 post-natal care packs that will bring much needed support and comfort. The packs included onesies, singlets, cloth nappies and pins, pilchers and a bunny rug for the babies. Items for new mothers included face washers, soap and other personal care items.
Latter-day Saint women also packed Church-donated medical equipment before it was shipped to medical clinics and the Kavieng Hospital in the same region. The Slonims then distributed these resources during their three months in New Ireland.
“The people we trained were so grateful for this knowledge and the equipment that will enable them to continue saving lives, ” Gayle Slonim said.
Danny Hamilton, president of the Latter-day Saints' Sydney Harbour Stake, thanked the Slonims for their relief efforts in Papua New Guinea.
He said that members of the Church were delighted to see the positive difference that the training and donated medical equipment had made in the lives of those in such dire need in Papua New Guinea.